Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Thirty Years War (GMT) ~ Campaign Game

Game: The Thirty Years War (GMT)
Scenario: The Campaign Game
Participants: Bob H, Myself
Time: Sun, 4/15 ~ 1.00PM - 4.00PM
         Thu, 4/19 ~ 7.00PM - 8.00PM

The Thirty Years War (TTYW) is a game that we've played a lot of in St Louis. When it came out in 2001 we played it quite a bit and really enjoyed it. It was one of the first CDG's that most of my gaming group took to. It also opened my eyes to the Thirty Years War, a topic I was nearly ignorant on prior to the games release. Bob and I have both been reading up on the 30YW for a project we are working on and thus it seemed like a good time to get this game off the shelf and introduce Bob to it. Bob has for many year claimed to have an aversion to CDG's do to some rough treatment he received while playing PoG back in the day. While TTYW certainly has features that he 'said' he didn't like, I was able to strong arm him into playing as we're both very interested in the topic right now.

I had last played this game a couple years ago so I wasn't to rusty on the rules. We spent an evening going over the game prior to our playing it...we walked through a turn or two and made sure to cover all the different things you can do with your cards during a turn. TTYW is deceptively simple, aside from the exciting six round turn in which each player plays one card, there are only a couple of housekeeping steps at the start and end of the turn. The real meat of the game are the six action rounds and using your cards to drive the game.

Each card can be used in one of four ways, I will outline them here for you:

  • Activate a Leader
    • Use the card to activate a single leader, or group of them (in the same space) and then move the leaders and units in that area. Leaders and units each have a certain number of movement points, so usually you are moving a stack up to the slowest units movement allowance.
  • Recruit
    • Use the card to Recruit units. Each card can be used up to three times (depending on its value, 1-3) to make a Recruitment dr. Usually you will get between 0-3 steps of units, depending on who is doing the recruiting and what kinds of troops (Militia or Mercenaries) you are trying to recruit. 
  • Collect Foreign Aid
    • Cards have Aid values on them, the better the card, the more Aid. You can only play one card as an Aid card over the course of the turn. Foreign Aid points are used at the end of the turn to pay you forces, those that you do not pay (or are unable to) must Forage for pay running the risk of being eliminated permanently if you roll poorly. 
  • As an Event
    • Every card has an event. Some of the events are one time events and will remove the card from the game when the even is used. Some of the cards have reusable events which allow you to keep the card in the deck. There are also Combat Cards which allow you to influence a battle that is taking place. 
Each player has three decks, with each deck being added into the game as certain events happen or by a certain turn. Some events require other events to have been played in order for them to allow their event to take place. This is important, however there are not many of these combinations and they are pretty straight forward. If you are teaching the game to someone who has not played, its a good idea to walk them through some of these are they are important over the course of the game. 

Prior to Turn 1

Much of the map starts off the game Neutral. This will take some getting used to for new players as well. Events usually bring in regions to the conflict as the War gradually widens to cover the entire map. Violating Neutrality is allowed but it comes with a negative Victory Point price for the side that violates it. The games objective is to control areas and independent cities, at the end of the game the players will compare the current VP score to a table to see who has won. The game also had an interesting mechanic where each player can offer peace at the start of their turn (under the right circumstances). Thus if one player if in a very strong position the he can offer peace, which among other things can result in a win if he rolls enough.

As this was Bobs first game I gave him the Imperial player while I took the Protestant side. The game is hard on the Protestants for the first several turns and it's not until the mid game where we see Sweden and France enter the war where we see the tide swing in the other direction.

Early War

I should start off saying that we are using the most recent living Rules updates, including adding the 4th Imperial Veteran Unit to the starting Imperial Forces. The game starts in 1620 with Bohemia in Revolt against the Emperor. The Hungarians are also in Revolt against the Empire. The Bavarian's are steadfast allies of the Emperor. Saxony is also (currently) on the Empires side and is somewhat isolated being between the revolting Bohemians and the Imperial/Bavarian forces. Bob has a nice force of 4 Veteran units in Vienna along with a good force of Bavarian Mercenaries in Munich. During the early part of the game the Imperial units are not allowed to stack with the Bavarians. The Saxons have a small and weak Army at start. Additionally, the Spanish have a Veteran Army in Flanders that is limited in where it can move on the map. The Protestant player starts with two Armies in play.

Bob opens the game by subduing the Hungarian revolt

Bob opens by leading his Imperial Army in to Hungary to subdue the rebellion there. He rolls very well in the opening battle and takes out the Leader, thus ending the Hungarian participation in the conflict within minutes of the games start. I should take a moment here to talk about leaders and how important they are to the game. Every time a leader is involved in a battle the player will roll to see if the leader survives. The game uses 10 sides dice and there is usually at least a 20% chance that the leader will be eliminated, some leaders eliminate on a 30% roll. Thus often a real battle is the battle after the battle, that is when you role to see how your leaders prevailed. Loosing some key leaders early can be disastrous.  This is what happened in Hungry, when I rolled for the Hungarian leader (and there is only one, and if he dies the Hungarians are out of the game) and he died it was over for Hungary. This is usually what happens to the Hungarians in the opening impulses of the game, ideally you can make the Imperials play two cards to subdue them. 

Bob then moved the Spanish over into Lower Palatinate to start subjugating that area. This is another key early move as the Imperial player wants to get control of all of the electorates as soon as he can. I am not going to risk sending either one of my Armies over there to help yet as I am too weak early in the game.

Bob then moves into Bohemia

Bobs not done yet, he decides to bring the Imperials into Bohemian and quickly dispatches Thurn's Militia Army at little cost. I elect to take a shot at the Imperials after this move with Mansfield and move in to Budweis for combat the very next impulse. This battle goes well, not only do I win the fight but Bobs leader dies (Bucquoy) which is of far greater importance. Bob then brings the Bavarians over to assault Thurn's hapless Militia Army. This is a route and Thurn is sent running. At the end of the turn Spinola is unable to complete his Siege in Palatinate.

Turn 2 is much quieter then the first turn. Bob takes the Bavarians back to Bavaria (where they need not be paid) and spends much of the turn rebuilding the Imperial Army in Vienna. I too spend a lot of time recruiting as I am low on units. I do bring Christian in and he goes on an end run through Moravia (we realize later that I am illegally leading too many units with this leader). Turn 3 also passes quickly as Christian pulls out of Moravia and Spinola subdues Lower Palatinate and then heads into the United Provence's thus kicking off the Dutch War. I react by running an army into the Up to counter Bobs move.

Start of turn 2

Turn 4 heats up as Bob leads off with Tilly and his Bavarians moving back into Bohemia and attacking Mansfield at Prague. The Battle of Prague is big and Bloody. I loose and loose about three units in the process. Mansfield dies as does Pappenheim (Bavarian leader). Bob spends the rest of the turn subjugating Bohemia while I run my rag tag Army (whats left of them) over to Brunswick-Luneburg. Christian of Denmark enters the war as well.

Turn 5 continues to go Bobs way. Tilly leads the Bavarians into Brandenburg and takes out Christian and his small army before the Danes can get there to assist. This is a tough blow as I am now really down to a few leaders and not very many units. Bob has a very strong and well lead Army under Tilly and Wallenstein has reassembled a mighty Imperial Army now as well. Bob takes this new Imperial Army over to Nuruberg and lays siege to Anhalt, trapping him in the fortress. As I am starting to get desperate, I send Christian down to lift the Siege and hopefully change the course of this mostly one sided game. This is a big battle, I use two CC cards and am desperate for some good dice. I roll a 1 against Bobs 7, another defeat. The good news is that Bob looses a good leader and Christian (Denmark) lives. But I am not able to save the city and when that falls I loose Anhalt and this hurts as I am now running very low on leaders.

Meanwhile the Bavarians move over into Brunswick to tackle the remaining Protestants there (a Replacement leader and three Mercenaries).  I am again crushed and run down into Lower Palatinate to be with my Danish Allies as now almost all of my starting areas are under Imperial Control and I am having a hard time finding supply sources. Bob plays the Cordoba Leader card (a Spanish army comes on the board and must make its way up into the UP a turn later) and moves them into Lower Palatinate to go after my feeble forces. I win this battle, killing Cordoba (which is nice but not decisive). We stop here for the day as the next turn will bring the Intervention Deck into the game and I hope with it an early appearance by the Swedes as I am literally on my last legs.

Christian fails to lift the Siege of Nuruberg

Start of turn 5

Turn 7 dawns with Bob having 35 VPs. This is a nice number for him. He also has a clear lead on the map in terms of fighting forces. Lastly he controls all of the electors which will play into the narrative soon.  I am nearly cleared out of most of the map with really only Christian and his hearty Danes propping up the Protestants. My only real hope lies in Swedish or French entry into the war on this turn or the next, any longer and this thing is nearly over as I am starting to run out of turns.

Christian defeats Cordoba in Lower Palatinate

My first Intervention hand has neither the French or Swedes, it does have one new Protestant leader though. I open the turn by finally securing a supply source in Lower Palatinate when Christian sieges a fortress there. Bob doesn't do much on this turn, he does move Mercy and his Bavarian army back closer to Bavaria, which I assume he plans to take on the Danes in Lower Palatinate.
Start of turn 7

Turn 8 sees Bob move the Bavarians back North to take out my new leader (George) and his small army which I have been throwing cards (recruiting) trying to make it bigger. The Peasants are also revolting in the area (Brunswick-Luneburg). The Battle is a one sided affair with neither side loosing any leaders. The Danes decide to abandon the cause as Bob plays a card removing them from the game. It turns out this was an illegal card play as I write this I notice that the card requires Sweden to have entered the game and that certainly has not happened yet. Its not a big deal though as at the start of the next turn Bob rolls on the Peace Table and secures a win (having control of all of the electors helped here with e DRM) ending the Protestant cause and putting me out of my misery.

End of Game, turn 9

Despite my getting shellacked in this game, it remains a favorite and I am very glad that Bob enjoyed himself. He and I are working on a 30YW project and both have been reading up on the topic and this game certainly added to that. I hope we can get this on the table again soon as its nearly always a fun time and can be played to completion in 4-6 hours by two players that know what they're doing.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Advanced Squad Leader (MMP) ~ "Wintergewitter" A70

Game: Advanced Squad Leader (MMP)
Scenario: "Wintergewitter"
Publication: ASL Annual 95
Participants: Jim "HeavyD", Myself
Time: Fri, 4/6 ~ 6.00PM - 10.00PM

This time around the scenario selection phase fell to me so I went to ROAR. I pulled all of the scenario data down into Excel (record by name) and then sorted on number of games played. Wintergewitter jumped out to me because it's nearly perfectly balanced (251 total playings with a 119/135 [47% Russian] split). I know that I had played it once a long time ago, and at my age that really is the same as having never played it before. HeavyD was in the same boat. We diced for sides and I got the defending Russians.

The Germans are attacking and have to clear out the village on board 12 of all good order Russian MMC and AFV's by the end of the game (5.5 turns). The boards (33, 12, 16) are very open even before you add in the special rules about woods being brush. There is also ground snow and all buildings are ground level only and wooden. Both sides have winter camouflage as well. 

The Russians start with 4 4-4-7s, 2 5-2-7s and 2 2-3-7 HS. They are led by an 8-1 and 7-0. They have one MMG, 2 LMG and an ATR. They can set up anywhere on board 12. On turn 2 they get a platoon of three T-34/M43 tanks as reinforcements. The Germans have 3 5-4-8s and 1 2-3-8 HS, with a 9-2 and 8-1 for leadership. They have a dm MMG and 2 LMGs. In addition to this the Germans have a nice set of AFVs. There are 2 Pz-IVF2s, 2 Pz-IIIJs, 1 Pz-IIIN and three SPW 251/1 with a lone SPW 250/1 bringing up the rear. The Germans also have a 9-1 AL. The entire German force enters the game on the South edge of the board on turn 1.

My set up

Prior to the start of turn 1

I knew that I would be doing very little moving around with my infantry once the game started so I placed a leader in each block of the town. I spread out while putting the MMG, LMG and ATR up in front of the town. The 8-1 is with this group. The smaller group has the other LMG and 7-0 with the two HS as well. Set up is quick, there are no level one buildings on the board thus there really isn't much to mull over, HeavyD can pick and choose where he comes on as all of his forces are either tanks for half-track mounted infantry. 

Turn 1

HeavyD brings the three Pz-IIIs on in the center, two hexes from my collection of concealed MGs. HeavyD then sends his HTs around to his right choosing to keep all but one of them mounted. I cant really fault this somewhat risky plan as I have little to react with and they are mostly out of LOS to my forces. He'll be able to have a lot of options on where and when to off load them in his 2nd movement phase. 

HeavyD moving on turn 1
Advancing Fire Phase, turn 1

The Advancing Fire Phase suddenly turns interesting when HeavyD rolls a 2 on his third area 'acquisition' shot of the game. We have to dig into the rules a bit to make sure we understand if its a CH or not, time well spent it turns out. The shot is an improbable hit and HeavyD rolls a subsequent 1 for the CH. I gack the MC and fail ELR for the squad in O3. One squad down. In this scenario the Russians will be in a fishbowl surrounded by German infantry and AFVs hungrily looking in. Its not likely that I'll be able to have a safe place to rally my guys once they break. My half of turn one takes about five minutes as I do not want to open up just yet, so I skulk where I can and make small adjustments. I am able to move the MMG back one hex and thus into LOS of a German 251 filled with a squad. I leave the ATR up front hoping to get a deliberate immobilization shot at one of the III's in next turns defensive fire phase.

End of German turn 1

Turn 2

HeavyD doesn't do any prep fire to open turn 2. He opens by moving two of the Pz-III's over a few hexes in front of my concealed ATR squad. Then he takes the remaining III over on his right and puts it between me and his half tracks. I take a deliberate immobilization shot with the ATR needing a six to hit and miss. HeavyD then gets a little crazy and takes one of his 251's and enters my hex via bypass in O6. I elect to stay concealed (I have a 7-0 and 2-3-7 HS in the hex) and not do any street fighting or reaction fire.  HeavyD then proceeds to deploy his other squads mostly across the street in safety, I do take one MG TK shot with the LMG behind the wall and hit but to not penetrate. The MMG though has better luck and kills the half track in its sights as the squad is unloading. The crew survives while the squads runs into a street hex where I break it with first fire. The two Pz-IVs make a run to cover the Northern approaches to the town.

Start of German turn 2

Adventures in Vehicle Bypass Movement

Impressive Advancing Fire, from the same Pz-IIIJ - turn 2

Once again we have an exciting time in the advancing fire phase. The Pz-III that repositioned into the center of the town CH's the LMG squad behind the wall, I manage a 12 on the MC so I am now a convict HS. The next exciting event is CC where I fail (needing a 7) to get the half track in bypass, all I am able to do is immobilize it and these guys (the crew) are not impressed, choosing to stay in their track and duke it out. 

Start of Russian turn 2
German Defensive Fire phase - turn 2

On my turn, I start off in prep fire by breaking my MMG taking a shot at the immobile HT. My T-34s make an entrance and draw some long range low odds attention from the IVs on HeavyD's right. I am able to get the three tanks into cover out of LOS of the IVs and in decent defensive spots should HeavyD decide to get aggressive next turn.  In Defensive final fire HeavyD breaks my melee crew (7-0 + 2-3-7) and also knocks out my ATR squad. My infantry has done little and is breaking left and right. I might have passed one MC thus far in the game, failing all the others including a couple ELR failures. To be fair HeavyD is shooting quite well tonight so these are usually 1 or 2 MC's that I am failing, so I have that going for me. We are also getting a good workout on the CH and improbable hit rules and that's also a good thing. 

Turn 3

Start of Turn 3
HeavyD again has a light prep fire phase to open turn 3. HeavyD moves two of the III's up a few hexes and manages to DM my broken squads whilst doing so. In a strange move, HeavyD moves a leader and HS into the street next to a concealed 5-2-7 (and the broken 7-0 + 2-3-7) and I manage to break them (Woohoo!). The 9-2 and squad move into the street as well and during final fire I mange to break the 9-2 with the repaired MMG, but the 5-4-8 that he's stacked with rolls a 2 on its MC and goes fanatic and procs a hero to boot. HeavyD's half track drivers are of course made of stern stuff as the bailed out crew charges into the row house next to the MMG whilst the immobilized crew keeps on manning its AAMG with the best of them. HeavyD decides to play it cool with his remaining tanks, not forcing a fight with my T-34s. Its easily the right play here and the way he's mowing through my infantry there is little pressure on him at this point. 

German Movement Phase, turn 3

My half of turn 3 opens with me definitely starting to feel the pressure. I need to get the T-34s into the action to try and inspire my disinterested infantry back into the fight. I am down to only three good order squads at this point and there's little chance of the broken ones coming back because they are easily going to be kept DM by HeavyD. I decide that I can make a move on a lone Pz-III in the center of the town. I will roll up and park two hexes away. I have my 11 frontal armor protecting me against the 13 (+1 for range) penetration of his 50L. HeavyD does have a nice supply of APCR though but at this point I have few options and its about time for me to cash in some of this karma that the dice goods have been depositing into my account. Thus with confidence I drive my T-34 into place two hexes away from the Pz-IIIJ and WHAM, he CH's me! He didn't even call out an APCR shot he was so confident in his crewmen. For those keeping track this is about the 6th CH that his tanks have scored to date (and we are not done by a long shot, kids). 

Start of Russian Turn 3
Scratch one T-34
The fun continues in the defensive fire phase as the immobile HT breaks the squad next to them with a 6+2 shot (rolling a 3). Next up an 5-4-8 with LMG zaps my guys in P2, reducing the broken squad and turning the concealed squad there into a Berserk squad (really the last thing I need right now...). It does prove thought that my dice are capable of rolling a 2, so I am encouraged at least. Next up one of the IVF2 CH building hex Q8, where a bunch of my broken guys are taking refuge. Despite the shellacking HeavyD is handing out to me, we are both having a good time, giggling like school girls with every new CH that HeavyD inflicts upon me. I am guessing that I have a 2.3% chance of pulling this one off, but I stick around because I just know that the dice Gods will have the revenge on HeavyD soon.

Turn 4

Turn 4 starts off with a bang as the Pz-IV's are now getting in on the CH action. The same tank that CH'd Q8 at the end of last turn shoots another one in there, this time shrinking the population of the hex down to a sole HS. Rate of fire eliminates this HS on the next shot. Next up the Pz-III breaks my MMG squad with yet more impressive marksmanship (this tank has a couple CH's to its credit already). I am now down to a single good order 8-1 and a berserk 4-2-6, all the rest of my infantry are preparing to enter the labor camp population in their post war careers. 

Start of German Turn 4

Bounding Fire Mayhem

HeavyD opens the movement phase by driving his Pz-IIIN next to the building housing my 8-1 and berserk squad. Strangely HeavyD decides to bounding fire instead of wait until the advancing fire phase. He obviously knows what he's doing though as the tank misses with its MGs but gets a hit (and rate) with its MA (75*). I mostly survive these MC's then HeavyD delays a MP and (wait for it...) rolls another 2 on his 2nd shot, BOOM a CH, well the possibility of one that is. We're laughing as he roles the subsequent dr to see what happens, a 1. This CH kills everything in the hex except a lone 2-2-6 Berserk HS, as it was a 2KIA result he checks for rubble and the building comes down and with it my last remaining non-broken infantry unit. We are laughing in the isles now and these are some amazing Germans that HeavyD has brought to the table tonight. I see no point now in continuing, we have had about as much fun as we can with this one. I concede and HeavyD accepts. 

Final Positions

So, even though I was literally blown off the board by HeavyD's laser like application of firepower I had a great time. This was some very entertaining ASL, even though it was largely one sided.